Gabriella Sainsbury

Corporate & Commercial Lawyer, Sparke Helmore Lawyers

Gabriella is an experienced corporate and commercial lawyer at Sparke Helmore Lawyers. She contributes to a number of boards as a company director, including as Deputy Chair and Company Secretary of Newcastle University Sport—the organisation that manages University Sport at UoN and The Forum health and fitness centres.

Gabriella has a thirst for learning and technical development demonstrated through her successful completion of a Master of Laws (Commercial Transactions) and graduation from the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Competing from a young age at a national level in two sports (and still playing in the Australian National Water Polo League national level today) has given Gabriella the critical soft skills to lead, manage and perform well under pressure in her various roles.

How do you manage your work/life balance? 

The ritual that keeps me balanced is exercising first thing in the morning. I aim to do this five or six days a week. I don’t always jump out of bed when the alarm goes off, but I know if I have a great workout before the day starts I’m setting myself up for a productive day.

Where do you see your industry heading and how have you positioned yourself to benefit from these changes?

The delivery models for legal services and provision of advice are constantly challenged and questioned in the current market. The industry itself is changing with the development of technology, automation and digitalisation. Businesses are expanding in-house legal services and firms in legal and complementary industries are increasingly offering a range of supplementary services to gain a competitive advantage.

 At the end of the day, you need to be good at what you do and what you deliver to clients—regardless of whether it’s done by a robot or hired labour. This means maintaining technical expertise and developing efficiencies to be able to continue providing services that meet the needs of your clients. This is something we hold true at Sparke Helmore.

To position myself to benefit from these changes I constantly strive to understand the needs of the client. For example, the firm also provides a number of secondment opportunities for lawyers (again, servicing needs of clients), which gives us the unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the internal operations of large and specialised businesses.

What characteristics do you think an individual needs to be successful in your profession (or in general)?

In the legal industry and in general, I believe resilience, emotional intelligence and the ability to influence are critical to success.

Resilience helps you manage inevitable curve balls and set-backs, and come out the other side in a stronger position and ready to tackle the next one. Resilience and perseverance go hand in hand—you won’t succeed if you give up easily!

Emotional intelligence enables you to identify cues and adapt to the needs and motives of those around you to allow you to help them (or vice versa!). This applies in all walks of life.

The ability to influence others and rally support means greater things can be accomplished. It may be quicker to go alone, but if you want to go far you need to go together. This is particularly relevant when dealing with complex or multi-dimensional legal issues, but is equally useful when negotiating who gets to pick the Netflix series to watch that day. Being collaborative means the best solution from a range of solutions is more likely to be implemented.

How do you define success?

In my experience, what is common to most successful people is the deep sense of fulfilment that comes from setting a goal (of any magnitude), navigating speedbumps and stop signs, and eventually achieving what they set out to do.

Do you have a life motto/mantra that keeps you going?

A few gems that have served me well are:

  • Diamonds are made under pressure.
  • At any given time, somewhere, someone else out there is working harder than you.
  • Say yes to an opportunity even if you are unsure, you can figure out how you can execute it later.
  • We must remember to accept the things we cannot change, have courage to change the things we can, and to have the wisdom to know the difference.

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